Staff members reveal retirement plans; offer fond farewells

by Amanda Malool
David Blitzer, class of ’87, is one of two majority owners of the New Jersey Devils hockey team and the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team.
After graduating from the high school, Blitzer received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania before accepting a position with the Blackstone Group, which is the same company that he works with today.
Blitzer reminisced about his high school experiences and offered some insight into working with the business side of sports.
Describe some of your favorite high school moments.
I loved everything about high school. I played soccer, basketball and tennis throughout, but really focused on tennis during my senior year.
I had a fantastic group of teachers, awesome friends and went to great parties. I was class president during my junior and senior years so I got to make the graduation speech.
I went on the ski trips with Larry Thomas (retired math teacher). We’d go out west or out of the country. We went to France, Colorado and Utah.
I was very involved with school and afterschool activities. I did my classwork and studies but balanced it equally with sports and politics.
We had Trivial Pursuit tournaments against other schools. We’d compete across the state, which was very fun, and we won a bunch of awards.
Another thing we did was the Road Rally, which was for juniors and seniors. It was a course around the state where you’d figure out clues, go to a certain place and then get or do something. It was multi-hour affair around the state, with a finish line and about 30 cars. It was great fun.
I also worked down the shore, along with half our senior class, before the Jersey Shore TV show. I worked at the waterslide and lived in a house called The Pit in
Seaside Heights.
Were there any positions that you held or clubs that you were involved in that propelled you into the sports industry?
I was very focused in high school on business. I was in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and I won the state competition.
I went to the Governor’s School of New Jersey at Kean. It was over the summer, an intense four weeks.
I liked sports a lot but was never good enough to play beyond the high school level. I wanted to buy into the business side of sports. Sports are fascinating, especially from business and legal aspects.
In 1991, two weeks after my college graduation, I joined Blackstone, which is a financially oriented job.
What position do you hold currently?
I am one of two general partners of both teams (the Devils and the 76ers). My jobs include watching over the Prudential Center, the drafts, people that we hire, and picking uniforms. I do almost every aspect of the job.
I moved to London in 2002 to open a Blackstone branch, and I lived there for ten years. I moved back to the states in late 2011.
What are your career goals with Blackstone as well as with your sports teams?
My business is to invest in companies. I take that knowledge and skill set and apply it to sports. We, as a company, own Hilton Hotels, Sea World, some railroads, refineries and other companies, which we’ve bought over time. I’d like to keep making investments.
For the sports teams, we want to improve sports science and preventative medicine: reduce injuries and gain more information on how athletes’ bodies work.
We would also like to improve data and analytics. We have hired people in our analytics office to create significant value for the team over time.
Do you have any plans for increasing the Devils and 76ers’ fan base?
We want to improve fan engagement. The world has changed. Social media is helpful with what you can do—fan and player perspectives, interacting with webcams and webinars, etc.
We also want to drive the Prudential Center, which we own, not just the team. We want better and more events, and to invest in the city of Newark.
I’m constantly given new apps and new ideas by people who work for me. We strive to improve the fan experience in every area for better fan enjoyment.
We also do a lot with community relations in Philly and Newark, especially with their youth sports programs. We want kids off the streets and into these programs.
What advice would you give to high school students?
Follow your passions. Everyone tells everyone else what to do, which can sometimes be a good thing, but work is not easy.
Whether it’s 40 or 80 hours a week, you have to like what you’re doing. When you have a passion, everything in your life is better.